MacMillan and Music 'Revealing MacMillan'


October 2002 : Paper presented and panel member, Royal Academy of Dance, London


When I interviewed Dame Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) in 1995 for an article on her use of music she was a sprightly 97 years old and a fund of information about the early days of British Ballet. She was very keen for me to understand that when she set up what would become the Royal Ballet organisation she had the idea of it being ‘an English Diaghilev company’ ( Jackson ,1995). Now, a key feature of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, was its emphasis on using the latest in décor, costumes and of course music. Diaghilev commissioned scores from, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud, Sauget, Markevitch, to name but a few. Madam herself worked extensively with specially commissioned scores from a number of British composers of repute, if not of stellar reputations. Composers she requested works for herself from included; Bliss, Gordon, Jacob and Toye. She actively encouraged the use of new music by her associates, and one finds in the 50’s scores by amongst others; Britten, Rawsthorne, Arnold, Searle, ap Ivor, and Henze. If one looks at the paucity of specially commissioned ballet score in the last 20 years of the Royal Ballet the 50s can begin to look like a golden age for composer/choreographer collaborations. Ashton, as is well known was not enamoured of contemporary scores preferring to search out the romantic era for existing works or arrangements to stimulate his imagination.

Macmillan on the other hand used the widest possible range of music for his choreographic creations. Just as his ballets explored a vast range of human experience and emotion, so the range of his musical choices is exhaustive. From Stan Kenton’s jazz and Joplin’s ragtime to music by Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Faure and Massenet. But the music that stimulated him most was usually 20th century and frequently neo-classical. The bitter sweet lyricism, exciting rhythms and pungent harmonies of this ‘school’ of composition seemed best suited to his brand of contemporary ballet. Stravinsky, was his favourite, he used eight scores by this giant of 20th century composers, beginning in 1955 with Danses Concertante ( premiere, 18 January 1955, Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, Sadler’s Wells). In this work MacMillan, as Edward Thorpe pointed out, created ‘a very sophisticated distortion of the classical dance vocabulary, a brilliant and effective visual parallel to the jagged musical forms’(Thorpe, 1985). MacMillan would continue in this vein throughout his career, whether it was to music by Milhaud, Martin, Martinu, Prokofiev, Poulenc or Shostakovich. His choreography was always in partnership with the music, and this is a key point, he did not allow either art form to dominate the other. He had a tremendous respect for music although in his early days this would cause some problems.

Despite MacMiIlan’s healthy
interest in contemporary music he only worked with 6 commissioned scores:

1956 Noctambules – Humphrey Searle
(1915-1982). (Premiere-1 March Sadler’s Wells Ballet,ROH)

1956 Solitaire (only the Polka and Sarabande
are new the rest of the music is the 8 English Dances) –Sir Malcolm Arnold.
(Premiere-7 June, Sadler’s Wells theatre Ballet, Sadler’s Wells)

1960 The Invitation- Matyas Seiber. (Premiere-
10 November, The Royal Ballet Touring Company, New Theatre Oxford)

1964 Images of Love – Peter Tranchell.
(Premiere-2 April, The Royal Ballet, ROH)

Isadora – Richard Rodney Bennett. (Premiere- 30 April, The Royal Ballet, ROH)

1992 The Judas Tree – Brian Elias. (Premiere,
19 March, The Royal ballet, ROH)

The idea of a choreographer and composer collaborating is supposed to be the ideal scenario for creating a ballet but it can be fraught with difficulties. It is a bit like buying a pig in a poke! Because a choreographer has liked one work by a composer there is no guarantee that the commissioned score will turn out as the choreographer hoped. As we shall see one of the key features in commissioning a work should be that the choreographer and composer get to know one another. This was not the case with MacMillan’s first commissioned score. Noctambules was his first work at the Royal Opera House and as such its premiere was to be a high profile occasion. This slightly macabre melodrama concerning a hypnotist whose powers affect the lives of his audience, as well as that of his assistant and also himself, called for a very carefully managed score. De Valois suggestion of Humphrey Searle seemed like a good idea. His music was expressionist yet lyrical influenced as it was by the works of Arnold Schoenberg, but also tempered by his love of Romantic music, in particular that of Liszt, on whom he was an expert. The two men did not however know each other, and MacMillan, was somewhat in awe of the composer, who at the time was a name of some reputation in English musical circles. (He had been the original choice to compose the music for Homage to the Queen, Ashton’s coronation ballet, although the commission eventually fell to Malcolm Arnold). As Dame Ninette said to me apropos Diaghilev ‘At the beginning of a project a composer would have long discussions with Diaghilev and later with the piano score he would discuss the composition as it went on. And then if something needed lengthening or cutting…they would discuss it with the composer.’1

MacMillan did indeed provide Searle with a detailed scenario at the onset of the project but there the discussions ended. And when the piano score arrived there where a number of sections which where much longer than what had been requested. This should not have been too much of a problem, indeed de Valois, had requested that Bliss cut the length of the Red Knight’s Mazurka in Checkmate, telling the composer ‘you can listen longer then you can look’. However at this stage in his career MacMillan did not feel that he could ask the composer to make cuts, he was after all a young choreographer and Searle was an established composer. MacMillan worked on and when the ballet was premiered, the choreography was praised and yet it was Searle’s music which was criticised for being overly dramatic and high-strung.

It seems to me that MacMillan worked best when he was allowed to follow his own instincts about the choice of music. One has only to think of the success of Songs of the Earth with music by Mahler, which had originally been ‘banned’ from production at Covent Garden because the powers that be felt that Mahler’s music was not a suitable case for choreography. Searle had not been MacMillan’s choice of composer but de Valois’, he faired better in his second commissioned score, although here it was not the whole score which was commissioned.

In 1956 his great friend John Cranko, had been working on the full length ballet to Britten’s score the Prince of the Pagoda’s. At the same time he was supposed to be working on a new work for Sadler’s Wells for which Desmond Heeley, had already made the designs. When it was decided to postpone the latter work MacMillan, received a call from Dame Ninette, who ever unwilling to waste anything, asked him if he would make a ballet to fit the Healey designs. Heeley had created a romantic yet thoroughly contemporary forest of white scaffolding against a turquoise sky. Against this background Macmillan would create one of his most popular works Solitaire, sub-titled ‘A kind of game for one’. MacMillan had the idea but no music, but in the ensuing hurried, if not frantic, search of London’s record shops he came across the recently released record of Malcolm Arnold’s 2 Sets of English Dances, and fell in love with them immediately. The trouble was that at fifteen minutes they were too short. After his experience with Searle, Macmillan may have felt a certain trepidation at approaching another established figure, and at this time Arnold was at the peak of his reputation in England, but he need not have worried. Arnold was well known in Covent Garden as the composer of two ballets for Frederick Ashton, Homage to the Queen and Rinaldo and Armida. He had a reputation for being good-natured and a consummate professional, as Anya Linden -now Lady Sainsbury- recalls: ’He was a heavy, lovely, jovial man and would stand by the piano to watch us, twinkling and laughing. If Fred didn’t like a particular passage, he’d happily write something else’.i MacMillan did not therefore feel to worried when he contacted him to ask if he would mind the dances being played in a different order, and if he would write two new numbers. Arnold happily agreed to all of this and
produced what would become two of his most popular pieces a Sarabande and Polka which in his own words he ‘wrote in half an hour’. The order of the dances in the ballet are English Dance 7, 1, 2, 3, 4, Sarabande, Polka, 6, 5, 8, 7.

In choosing Arnold’s music, MacMillan showed that he was able to hear more than the surface meaning of a work. Arnold was and indeed is famous for the vigour and humour in his works. Yet in all of his music, the English Dances being no exception, there is underlying sense of melancholy. To the casual or less attuned listener this is not apparent, but MacMillan clearly picked up on this. His tale of a loner attempting to join in with a larger group, and based in part on the experiences of Margaret Hill the ballerina on whom it was created and who had joined Sadler’s Wells from Ballet Rambert and was always trying to become a part of the large organisation, there is as Edward Thorpe points out ‘a distinct air of melancholy beneath the surface gaiety of the ballet’2 a phrase that could be used to describe the music as well. His use of the ballerina within the ballet is also somewhat akin to Arnold’s use of the melodies within the music. Constant Lambert once disparagingly said that the only thing one could do with a folk tune was to repeat it again louder. Yet Arnold goes one step further and places his melodies against and within different instrumental colours and groups exploring the effect of the sonic environment on the melodies. In much the same way MacMillan echoes this in his placing of ‘the girl’ against and within the different groups of Dancers, exploring her relationship with different emotional and physical environments.

I do not have a video extract of the work to show you but as Robert Penman noted, in his talk this morning, a MacMillan work ‘once seen is never forgotten’, I cannot resist playing an extract from the bittersweet Sarabande.

It is a pity that Arnold and MacMillan never worked on another ballet together, although in an Interesting turn of events Arnold’s next ballet would be for John Cranko’s 1959 working of the Sweeney Todd story.

MacMillan’s next commissioned score would not be until 1959/60 and was a success touched by tragedy once more it would be judged a successful one, largely because he was allowed to choose the composer he wanted to work with and that composer was another consummate professional. Matyas Seiber was a Hungarian composer who had studied with both Bartok and Kodaly and who settled in England and became a fixture on the musical scene in the post-war years. He was particularly successful as a teacher and counted among his pupils, Peter Racine Fricker, Hugh Wood, Anthony Milner and Francis Routh, who described his old teacher as ‘a complete musician, who had no strong points because he had no weak ones’. He was a highly practical man who contributed much to cinema music and who would turn up at a recording session for a film with his orchestral score and parts written in three different coloured inks, and if the director complained that a passage was too dense he would say, for example, “Play the blue parts.”. The film music connection, as with Arnold, stood him in good stead for his work in ballet.

MacMillan had heard some of the composers music on the radio and thought he would be a suitable choice for his ballet ‘The Invitation,’ a sexually charged work dealing with a young boy and girl who become involved with a bitter husband and wife, and including a brutal rape scene. MacMillan gave the composer a detailed breakdown of the timings of the sections which like any good film composer Seiber followed as much as he was able. However as Jann Parry has discovered in her research for her forthcoming biography of MacMillan, and as Lynn Seymour notes in her article in the brochure for this Conference, the ballet ‘was originally conceived as a two act piece’. Sadly however Seiber never completed the two act score since he was killed in a car crash while on a visit to South Africa and the remaining material ‘had to be honed to only one act’.

The score as performed delivering to the choreographer an eclectic, atmospheric score that conjured up perfectly the Edwardian, South American setting the next commissioned score would be for a ballet which was MacMillan’s first to be commissioned from Ashton, who had succeeded de Valois as Director of the Royal Ballet in September 1963. Under the circumstances MacMillan was keen to produce a work a work of appropriate stature, and decided to create a suite of dances to which would explore a number of Shakespeare’s references to love. The choice of composer for this work to be called ‘Images of Love’ seems slightly odd and came at the suggestion of the conductor John Lanchbery. I say odd because at this stage in his career MacMillan could have requested a score form any of the established composers of the day and yet on Lanchbery’s recommendation he choose Peter Tranchell.

Peter Tranchell (1922-93) had a long association with Cambridge University as a student then as a don (of Gonville & Caius College). His serious compositions were few and included the opera The Mayor of Casterbridge (1951), anthems and a cantata and a one previous ballet ‘Fates Revenge’ produced by Ballet Rambert in 1951. If he had a reputation as a composer it was as one of light music (he was a member of the Cambridge Footlights) and vocal “entertainments”. This was not the composer to create a significant score for such a significant occasion.

As before MacMillan, gave Tranchell, a detailed breakdown of the scenes with timings and Then foolishly ignoring the example of Diaghilev and what he had learned from his brush with Searle, left him to get on with it. Now there is a great difference between the way things sound on a piano and the way they sound on a full orchestra. During rehearsals the music sounded acceptable. But when at the dress rehearsal MacMillan heard the fully scored version he was so shocked he burst into tears. In its orchestral garb the music sounded like the worst sort of Broadway show. Now he was not a snob, but Images of Love was meant to be a significant dramatic addition to the repertory and he had expected a significant score, that he did not get one should have been no surprise looking at the credentials of the composer. In any event MacMillan never listened to anyone else again over the choice of a commissioned score and it would be 16 years until he took the plunge and commissioned a score from another composer. This would be for the ballet ‘Isadora’ and would be on a different level entirely to all of his other collaborations.

Richard Rodney Bennett, for he was the composer, had met MacMillan at a Xmas party given by Edward Thorpe and Gillian Freeman. Now in Bennett’s own words ‘Kenneth and I had known each other for a hundred years, or at least known of each other, because he was a great friend of John Hollingsworth, the conductor who had given me my first film job. So we eyed one another dubiously and he was deathly scared’. This fear soon passed when the two realised they shared a passion for handicraft, notably ‘making things with fibre and stuff, macramé etc’. According to Bennett, MacMillan became ‘one of the dearest people in my life’. However that did not make the project easy to work on. Initially Bennett found the project ‘a very difficult thing to do’, this was because it was impossible to get MacMillan to articulate exactly what it was that he wanted, indeed at one point Bennett felt it was going to be impossible for him to do so. Bennett was used to working on films and ‘was used to the director telling me, well no, the film telling me what to do and the directors talking a load of crap.’ Well here the director was not talking ‘crap’ he simply was not talking. Eventually Bennett pinned MacMillan down and told him that not only did he need to have timings for each section but that he needed to know what was going on in the minds of the characters before he could start. MacMillan responded to this approach and ‘was as good as gold’, and he and Gillian Freeman wrote a detailed scenario with the time lengths, as well as details of the dramatic mood and character for each scene.

It was as well that Bennett was given a scenario because at the time he was emigrating to New York and the prospect of lengthy transatlantic telephone meetings was not appealing. In the event it was a strange time for Bennett as all of his furniture got lost in transit and he was without a piano. This was not such a problem for Bennett as he prefers to write away from a piano anyway. And so Isadora was written in an empty apartment in New York with Bennett working as fast as he could. An experience which he strangely describes as ‘wonderful’. There were occasional questions and Bennett would ring MacMillan and ask what was the relationship between x and y in this dance what was he thinking what was she thinking. Even at this stage MacMillan did not find it easy to answer questions and Bennett describes him as ‘not articulate, a genius but not a fountain of words’. It is interesting to speculate here that MacMillan chose Bennett for this very reason, that he would question the motivation of the characters. After all he was used to working in film and providing music which would have a psychological link to the lives of the characters on screen. MacMillan had used patchwork scores for Manon and Mayerling etc., but here wanted more unity in the patchwork that was necessary for the story to hang together.

Writing the ballet ,over 2 ½ hours music, was an immense amount of work and took Bennett over a year to complete (the orchestral score was completed in Los Angeles on 17 Dec 1980). In his score Bennett wrote notes for himself, as much as anyone else, that corresponded to MacMillan’s original scenario. But as the rehearsal process went on these were frequently jettisoned. There was an enormous scene at the beginning set in Liverpool Street station with lots of children running around which was very busy and had what Bennett feels was ‘some lovely music that just went’. Even more went after the first season, eventually nearly 20 minutes of music disappeared, such changes in the continuity of the ballet make reading the score extremely difficult. But such was Bennett’s regard for MacMillan that he ‘didn’t really care what happened to the music’, although not entirely. Bennett cares most about tempi in his music and although he wrote out his score, initially, in a version for 2 pianos and taped it with Susan adshaw so that the dancers had a demo tape to work with. He is convinced they did not use his tape for rehearsals; ‘They weren’t used to working with tapes and I think that’s why ballet music is normally played at the wrong speed as far as I can see because they (the rehearsal pianists) play the music (at the wrong tempi), usually it must be noted at the request of the choreographer. Even though Bennett, feels that the final score was a ‘real ragbag’ he ‘was very disappointed that everyone in the world didn’t love it’.

His favourite work on the ballet was in writing the pastiche numbers and in this he was not a purist he simply ‘wrote what I (he) thought they should sound like’. In this MacMillan had found the perfect partner since Bennett’s musical life covers both classical and popular fields. The pastiche numbers are some of the most successful in the ballet. One example is Scene 9 in Act1 set in St Petersburg railway station, in which Isadora sees a procession of children’s coffins, a premonition of her children’s death. Bennett writes a slow pastiche of a Russian folk dance, the melody given to the melancholic cor angalis, while the orchestration in its use of woodwind is reminiscent of Stravinsky. To this MacMillan choreographs a dance for some Russian girls, joined by Isadora, which if it is not a homage to, is a very close relation to the Nursemaids dance from Fokine’s ‘Petrushka’.

Both the music and choreography are perfectly in harmony with one another, and both seem to be a homage to Stravinsky and Fokine. {POSSIBLY IF TIME} Later at the opening of Act 2 is a scene in a night club where both choreographer and composer have great fun sending up the popular dance styles. MacMillan reacts wonderfully to
Bennett’s music and in this extract he plays beautifully with the timings of the dancers, Isadora and Singer dance at the speed of the melody while the outside guests dance at twice the speed, thus drawing attention to the two caught up in the whirl of the society life.

In Bennett, MacMillan found a worthy collaborator, who fulfilled all of his musical needs as few others could. Bennett’s ability to write in any style was however considered suspect by the critics of the 1980’s. The Times found his music ‘agreeable enough’ though felt it never developed a character of its own, while The Daily Telegraph felt that his ‘score kept trying to imitate, without much success, the music of Isadora’s period’. In this both are wrong, as critics writing about ballet music so often are. The pastiche’s are masterly and the musical material for the main narrative of the ballet is prime Bennett, perfectly suited to MacMillan’s ‘contemporary ballet’, it’s neo-romanticism hinting at the developments in Bennett’s work in the 80’s.

There was almost another Bennet/MacMillan work. After the success of Elite Syncopation’s in 1974, MacMillan, had been asked to make another ballet using Scott Joplin’s music, nothing had come of this, but after the success of Isadora, MacMillan, asked Bennet for a ballet ‘about Scott Joplin’s music’. When asked what did he mean he characteristically could not give an answer but said he wanted Bennett to do it.

Bennett sometimes helps himself to get to sleep by free associating on a word and then working backwards, and in this work he had the idea of starting with a Scott Joplin piece and then through free-associating would pass through different musical styles and then end up at my music. The work that he wrote was Noctuary which is a diary of night. The work starts off with a Joplin rag then goes through Ravel and Bartok and various styles that are a part of Bennett’s musical makeup and eventually ends up with
the real Bennett, though as he says ‘whatever that is’. He played it to the MacMillan’s and he was thrilled. Bennett saw it as an abstract ballet, but MacMillan had seen the movie ‘Playing for Time’ (1980) in which Vanessa Redgrave, played Fania Fanelon the Jewish singer and pianist who ended up as the conductor of a women’s orchestra in Auschwitz and he thought that that was what the ballet was about. Bennett had wanted to say no but ‘could refuse him nothing’. One of the pianists at Covent Garden learnt the piece but before MacMillan could fit it into his schedule events overtook him.

Macmillan’s last collaboration was perhaps his most successful. All the lessons that he Had learned about working with composers paid off. In 1989 Deborah MacMillan had attended the premiere of Brian Elias’ 5 Songs to poems by Irina Ratushinskaya, after which he received a telephone call asking if he could send a tape to the MacMillan’s. A subsequent invitation to dinner was met with some trepidation as Elias thought MacMillan would ask if he could choreograph the 5 Songs, something Elias did not want to happen. However this was not to be and MacMillan asked him to write a new work for him. MacMillan had been drawn to the dramatic and theatrical in Elias music and as the two got to know each other better Elias would joke with him that the thing that connected the two of them was the degree angst in their emotional makeup. And so the work that was to become his last choreography was commissioned, ‘The Judas Tree’.

From the onset MacMillan insisted that there he would not provide Elias with a minutage, he was adamant that he wanted the composer to write a piece of orchestral music that he would choreograph and not a piece of ballet music. Being given too much freedom can be as restrictive as having to little and at first Elias grumbled at his
freedom but then settled into the work with the aspiration to ‘attempt a piece of music that would have its own validity but would first and foremost serve Kenneth’s needs’. This was an almost unheard of opportunity for the composer and something that had not really been attempted much since the days of Stravinsky and Diaghilev. The music would provide the impetus for the choreography rather than try to illustrate a given scenario.

Initially MacMillan had said he wanted to make a ballet abut betrayal and he had mentioned the story of Judas but Elias had not wanted to write anything about a specific religious topic. The discussions had started in May 1989 and between that and October 1989 it took a long time for the framework to be fixed. At the beginning of the project the events in Tiananmen Square were much in the news and had moved both men greatly, the two also compared notes on what they saw as duplicity and rejection in there lives. Eventually MacMillan provided Elias with a small scrap of paper on which were written the words:





which for the composer became ‘a sort of talisman’. In addition the two decided that the Judas story would contribute elements to the overall shape of the piece without being in anyway narrative. The work was also to be surreal without a fixed physical setting (although later the decision to place the work in a Docklands setting was motivated by the designer Jock MacFayden) and it would last about 40 minutes. After that MacMillan left Elias alone to work, although not quite alone since they would mix socially and at times he would play extracts from what he was working on. MacMIllan was guarded in his comments, mainly because he was not able to visualise how the music would actually sound. But after playing variation 5 to him, the variation with an extended steel pan solo, and receiving very positive feedback Elias played little to him after that, his positive comments gave Elias the confidence to work more on the score. As the composer has noted ‘I was enormously gratified by his sensitivity to the music and by his constant respect for my own needs and strictures in composition.’

In working on the score, almost in reverse fashion, Elias developed for himself a detailed scenario which he did give to MacMillan. In it he divided the work into 5 sections in which a number of imagined characters (given Biblical names, Mary, Judas, Peter etc) interact in given situations, he was able to link these to his musical characters –the rhythm and the motifs- and the situations – the structure. As Susan Bradshaw succinctly put it ‘The score of The Judas Tree is thus part symphony, part music drama-but above all an abstract orchestral structure expressed in terms of movement and dance’ Once the score was finished Susan Bradshaw and Andrew ball made a piano recording of the work to play to MacMillan and his response was lukewarm. What was missing was the orchestral colour which was such an essential part of the work. As the time for MacMillan to choreograph drew near he threw an artistic tantrum, calling Elias up and demanding that he have an orchestral recording of the work so that he could hear exactly what it sounded like.

Elias feels this was all carefully staged and it ultimately paid off with the Friends of the Royal Opera House paying for two recording sessions so that a rehearsal tape of the orchestral score could be made. As soon as MacMillan heard the tape he was delighted with the score MacMillan did not invite him to rehearsals until a late stage but when he was allowed in to the studio Elias was ’thrilled to see how into the music he was’. Macmillan took great care of the score treating it with respect and there was very little cutting involved. However in the rape scene Elias had originally timed this as lasting over 6 minutes but when he came to write it he felt it was too long and asked MacMillan if it could be shorter, MacMillan had refused this and so Elias wrote 6 minutes of music. But when MacMillan came to choreograph the section he realised it was too long, and so overnight Elias had to excise 2 minutes from the score. The composer is now quite happy with his cut as he feels that in the original there was too much over dramatisation of the event (something for which the score of Noctambules was criticised).

Elias would have been happy to let MacMillan do what he wanted with the music. Once he had given him the score it was not his. Elias is unusually philosophical for a composer when he says he would have been happy to make any changes in the score ‘Its like being asked to make a suit for somebody and then getting upset when they say it is too tight.’ Elias found MacMillan to be ‘extremely musical’ in that he would be able to follow the underlying harmonic rhythm or the long-term rhythm of phrases of a musical structure that would not be apparent to the casual listener. Elias music is very sophisticated for a ballet score, his use of many aspects of rhythm including those made by harmonic movement, extended meter and variable phrase lengths etc provided a great challenge for the choreographer. MacMillan reacted to it in a sophisticated fashion, he follows nothing literally in the score rather adding onto the already complex material his own complex counterpoint of rhythmic material made visible in the dancers bodies. For me one of the most extraordinary sections is variation 4, in itself an extraordinary bit of musical colouring, with 4 cellos holding the musical material. Against this or rather layered on top of this Macmillan’s choreography has the dancers seeming to hover and glide like skaters on clouds.

In terms of his commissioned scores MacMiIlan, was I feel a victim of circumstance, both personal and professionally. On a personal level being of – as Edward Thorpe has put it – ‘a somewhat introspective personality’ he was not able on his first encounter with a composer (Searle) to get the score he wanted and this coloured his view of working with specially commissioned music and he was always wary of it. This could perhaps explain why MacMillan should have used arrangements of existing music for his ballets instead of a commissioning a new score (Anastasia, Mayerling, Manon). True he was successful with the two small pieces Arnold wrote for him and the Seiber score was satisfactory, but he was unlucky that Seiber was unfortunately killed before the premiere thus truncating the work, and also MacMillan lost another possible collaborator.

Professionally he was born at the wrong time, for developments in technology have meant that composers can give a fairly good computer generated version of the most complex orchestral scores at minimal cost if not minimal labour. The disaster with ‘Images of love’ could have been averted. MacMillan, not unreasonably wanted to hear the music as it would sound in its final orchestral colours, this now is to some extent possible.

By the time he felt able to work with a new score again he had developed personally and professionally so that he could approach like-minded composers to work with. With both Bennett and Elias he was fortunate in that he developed a close personal and professional relationship. In both cases he developed such a rapport with the composers so that they felt that when they gave him the score it was his and they were happy for him to use the music as he wanted. The success of his collaboration on The Judas Tree clearly demonstrates that he had at last found a way to resolve the issues that had so long prevented him from working successfully with commissioned scores, and it is a great sadness that it was his last. ‘

1 Dame Ninette de Valois interview with Paul
Jackson 23rd November 1995

2 Thorpe ibid

i Ibid.